First of all, I have to give credit where it is due. As I spoke to my sister this morning about the path of being authentic and balancing the wild side of me, she referred to the struggle as dealing with a personal pendulum. The term settled in with me and my current state. The personal pendulum swinging in and out of the parts of ourselves that others or society would not approve of. The parts of ourselves that temporarily make us feel better but have the potential to hurt others permanently.
My pendulum used to swing to one side, being wild and free with no regard for who I hurt. After a ton of negative consequences, (and yes, there were a ton because I am stubborn) I created this new personality that swung the other way completely. Hard-core personal and professional achievements, strict rule-following, and no sight of that wild girl I once was. Pretending for others so that they would respect me and I could hide my past mistakes. I started out as the obedient rule follower, so the role was easy to fall into.
I have always been grateful for my sister, who taught me to stand up for myself and taught me how to be a woman. The bulk of my positive childhood memories and true fun include either my sister or my cousin, so for that I am eternally grateful. It was my sister who let that wild side of me flourish, so it is only fitting that she is a part of this post.
Carl Jung offered the concept of the shadow personality. The idea behind the shadow personality is that we all have parts of us that are relegated to the darkness of the unconscious. In other words, that dark side we all want to hide. The problem is that that dark side is part of who we are, and without an outlet for it, we become stale and unauthentic. Which means that we wander around in a different shell of a person, longing for happiness but never achieving it.
I used to feel safe in my dark side, but too many men took advantage of that side of me. Too many men showed me that I needed to be something else to avoid pain. Too many men stole my innocence and taught me that I have to protect that girl. Now, I have a man who is nothing of the sort and I have the freedom to be me. Yet, I still struggle.
My mentor (and one of my favorite people) once explained the shadow to me in an attempt to help me integrate that side of me back into my personality. He explained that most people lock up their dark side in a closet, hiding it away from others in shame. He said that the trick was to learn how to take your dark side by the hand and take it for a walk with you. All the while being conscious and intentional with the dark side’s actions. Although the description made sense to me, I have not been able to take my shadow for a walk yet.
I know that to find happiness, I have to be myself. All the buzz words like authenticity and true-self are abundant in my therapy sessions with others. I can recognize the overwhelming issues when someone tries to be what others want them to be. However, as the same mentor as mentioned above said, you can’t take someone else where you haven’t been.
I am not sure where to go from here. I do not have the magical answer. But, I do know that it is time for me to take a walk with an old friend… myself. I am not sure where she will take me, but I know it has to be a better place than having everything people dream of and being unhappy. And I know that it will include more of what I dream of and a lot less of what someone else considers a dream.
Stay tuned to see the pendulum swing.